Wednesday, August 5, 2009


When I was younger my parents took me to the ballet occasionally. We saw standards like the Nutcracker but we also saw plenty of other shows including a very intriguingly done Macbeth. Because of that early introduction, I've always loved the ballet. Much like the main character in Honk!: The Story of a Prima Swanerina by Pamela Duncan Edwards. Of course the main character happens to be a swan.

The story follows Mimi who happens to be flying by the Opera Hall when she spies a ballet in progress. Mimi falls in love with the graceful figures and the dances. She practices at her pond, trying to get the steps right. And then she decides that she should go see another performance. She tries to walk in to the Opera House but is turned away by the manager with the words "No swans in the Opera House!" Mimi tries other ways to sneak in to see the performance but her Honk always gives her away. Finally, as she is about to give up, a late ballerina shows up at the backstage door. Mimi follows her in and takes a place in the lineup of dancers. As the ballerinas and one swan go on stage, Mimi dances all the steps she knows. Luckily the ballet is Swan Lake and audience loves her. She is invited back to perform again the next night.

This is a cute little story about ballet and dedication with a good deal of silliness tucked in. Children will love all the clever ways Mimi tries to sneak into the opera house. I love the random honks that give the swan away. And of course the irony of the ballet being Swan Lake. The focus is more on Mimi than on the ballet itself although the book goes through many of the classic positions of the ballet early in the book. I love how Mimi seems so matter of fact about her going to see the ballet. There is no doubt in her mind that she should be allowed in. Her self-assurance and determination make her a surprising character. Those are not normally attributes given to swans.

Henry Cole provides the illustrations for the book and they are downright beautiful. The soft images seem have a good deal of color and warmth. There is something fuzzy about the images which reminds me of old color films. There seems to be a nostalgic quality to the images to remind us that people used to go to the ballet regularly. The ballerina's dresses and the soft feathers of the swan seem very similar and stand out well against the dark outfits of the manager and the others attending. I enjoyed the colors of the pieces but it was the softness of the images that made them stand out for me. A beautiful book.

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